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It’s been interesting to note some different species of fungi growing on the property this winter, compared to last year.  We haven’t seen a single Redwood Rooter or Elfin Saddle yet this year, but instead, we seem to have a number of Lactarius species that we didn’t notice at all last winter.

 

Lactarius xanthogalactus

This west coast species, Lactarius xanthogalactus, has been especially prevalent throughout our oak woodlands on the property this year.  Commonly known as the West-Coast Milky Cap, Lactarius xanthogalactus is typically found growing in association with Coast Live Oak.  It may be found growing alone, scattered, or gregariously during the fall and winter months.

 

The buff color of the cap of this species is not particularly conspicuous on the forest floor

The cap of this species ranges from 4-12 cm in diameter, is broadly convex, to plane, and occasionally shallowly vase-shaped, in more mature specimens, like the one below.

 

Lactarius xanthogalactus

The central disc is often depressed, and the cap margin is incurved, becoming decurved with age.  The gills are attached to slightly decurrent, narrow, and often forked near the stem.

 

Lactarius xanthogalactus

The cap surface is somewhat viscid when moist, glabrous, and is colored a reddish brown, sometimes with darker spotting.

 

The cap of Lactarius xanthogalactus is slightly viscid when wet

The stipe (stem) is typically 2-8 cm in length, hollow at the apex and solid, often with a slight flare, at the base.  The cortex, when injured, exudes a white latex that rapidly turns sulfur-yellow on exposure to air.

 

Injured cortical tissue exudes a milky white latex, that within just a few seconds becomes sulfur-yellow

This species has a pale yellow spore print.

Although some Lactarius sp. are edible, Lactarius xanthogalactus is considered poisonous, and most mushroom guides as a general rule recommend avoiding consumption of any Lactarius species with latex that turns yellow.

 

Specimens of Lactarius xanthogalactus at this year's Santa Cruz Fungus Fair

After a soggy start to winter, we’ve now had a couple of weeks of dry sunny weather, and our woodlands are drying out quickly.  This morning’s hike around the property turned up very few species of fungi compared to recent weeks.  With more sun in the long-range forecast, Mushroom Mondays may get cut short this season…but the good news is, it’s perfect weather for gardening!